Dietary copper requirements

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Despite the known essentiality of copper in humans, dietary requirements are still uncertain. World-wide, a number of Dietary Reference Values are recommended for copper intake (see Table 5.2) but the variability between them is indicative of the lack of consensus between advisory bodies. Making dietary recommendations, even of Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), is difficult owing to a lack of adequate data. In the UK, the Department of Health considers the available data on human copper requirements to be insufficient to determine an EAR.12 In the US, an EAR of adults for copper was derived from a combination of biochemical indicators of copper requirement, as no single indicator was judged as sufficiently sensitive, specific and consistent to be used alone.

A Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) can be calculated by extrapolating the EAR to account for inter-individual variation in requirements. The US RDA, like the UK Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is intended to provide enough copper for about 97% of adults. The World Health Organization has loosely defined an Acceptable Range of Oral Intake (AROI). Its upper limit could not be specifically confirmed because of the limited information available on the level of intake that would provoke adverse heath effects. It is apparent that more data are needed if sound and defensible guidelines are to be derived.

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